Category Archives: Non-Country Stuff

Pop Spotlight: Yes, I’m Talking About Kesha’s Rainbow. Sue Me.

Why am I talking about Kesha’s latest album? Even taking into account I said awhile back I was going to start spotlighting non-country stuff occasionally, why this? It’s not as if it’s got any shortage of coverage.

Truthfully? Because it’s held my attention more than any other album these past couple weeks, especially during my small break from writing.

So then, why is this long-awaited Kesha album the one I keep coming back to at the moment, especially over country records?

Well, honestly, my initial interest had, as I”m sure is a commonality among people who paid attention to this project, to do with the drama surrounding Kesha and the release of this record. I wanted to know all about #FreeKesha, and whether she’d really made music that sounded different from her ridiculously processed, virtually lifeless party music from before. And then I listened to this record and was pleasantly surprised by a lot of things, not the least of them being that she seems to understand country better than the majority of mainstream country artists. It’s reflected in the cheating song “Hunt You Down,” which is reminiscent rhythmically of “Walk the Line,” and certainly in her version of Dolly Parton’s “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You),” which is both unique to her and a tasteful representation of the song. Her mother wrote this song, and Kesha grew up with classic country music. She’s obviously not country, but it’s plain to see that she does respect it, and it’s cool to see Dolly Parton joining her on this song like a nod of approval. The two sound surprisingly good together as well.

Admittedly, some of my fascination and connection with this album is personal. I don’t want to insinuate that I’ve experienced even half of what Kesha would have of us believe she went through, but at the same time, I can empathize to a certain, if small, degree, and a song like “Praying” just takes me out of a place of review altogether and just leaves me in a place of solidarity with her. This is just an incredible song honestly. You can tell she’s pouring her heart into it. The same goes for “Learn to Let you Go,” which is sort of the upbeat, less serious version of this one. She’s stronger in this one, but it’s still so honest. It’s the sincerity in these and some of the other straight pop songs that make this different from her previous material; this really is Kesha. You might not enjoy the style, but a lot of this is real. Music is supposed to make you feel something, and that’s what Kesha does for much of this album.

But she’s not always reflecting on her past either. “Boots” is a very cool, fun song that shows her having moved on and found love. “Woman” is sort of like a more mature version of one of her older songs, and “Bastards” and “Let ’em Talk,” although both serious, serve to provide a lighthearted way of saying we should ignore the well, bastards, in our lives, and move on from the hatred. This record ends like that with the very cool, very atmospheric “Spaceship,” where she asserts that in death, she’ll finally be able to escape all that hatred and fly off to her home in another galaxy. This one has got to be the most interesting as far as production, so if you are drawn to weird production, I urge you to check that one out.

So, if you like pop albums, this is absolutely the best one I have heard in 2017 without question. If you are more staunchly rooted in country, i still say check out “Hunt You down” and “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You).” If you like interesting production , there may be a lot for you to enjoy here because there’s quite a bit of diversity and certainly some intriguing collaboration choices. Some of you might just hate this because well, it’s not your style, but it pleasantly surprised me, and it gave me passion to write, which is more than I can say for many country projects that have come out recently. Not in the business of rating pop albums because well, for one, I don’t listen to them as regularly as country and therefore don’t have as much to compare this to, and also because I’m no authority on pop music, but if I’m just rating this against stuff I’ve heard in 2017, without consideration of genre, this gets a solid, strong 8.

Standout Tracks: “Praying,” “Boots,” “hunt You Down,” “Spaceship,” “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You)”

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Pop Spotlight: Lea Michele–Places

Yes, we’re called Country exclusive, and yes, we’re about to discuss a pop album. Truthfully, this record is something I discovered by accident based on a link from Twitter that made me want to hear it, and it hit me more than most of the country albums this week. I think most of us listen to music from many genres, and I’m going to start talking about music outside the country genre from time to time. I don’t expect it to be often or to have much rhyme or reason; really, I expect it to be just random non-country stuff that I like and want to share. Also, while I listen to plenty of good music in all genres, I cannot claim the amount of knowledge, or indeed even close to the amount, necessary to judge other genres like I can with country, so I am not calling anything non-country a review–these will just be short spotlights of stuff that I enjoyed and thought worthy of passing along to you. Now that that’s all out of the way, let’s talk about Lea Michele and her second studio album, Places.

As I mentioned, I heard about this by accident on Twitter from a comment that said, “Lea Michele has never sounded so good.” So I searched her and this album on Apple Music, and that’s the perfect thing to point out because the best thing about Places is the sheer vocal talent and emotion of Lea Michele. Often, there is just a piano, or just a piano and a string section, and her vocals, but, in contrast to many pop albums–and indeed many modern country albums–that is all Lea Michele needs to make you listen to songs like “Run to You” and “getaway Car.” It is rare to find such a technically great singer who can also express emotion so well, and I have been blown away by her ability to consistently do both each time I listened to this.

I knew nothing about her before Friday, but I have since found out that before her two solo records, Lea Michele was on Glee, and that while this album is a pop effort, it seeks to be more theatrical. It certainly does have a little of that quality. It’s definitely very ballad-heavy, so it won’t probably be for everyone, but the songs themselves and the fact that Lea Michele just murders these songs mostly makes up for that. IN fact, I’d say the weakest points on the whole record are the few moments where she tries to be more upbeat. I’d normally welcome the variety, but the more energetic tracks don’t do as much to showcase all that raw vocal talent. Anyway, if you are a fan of good pop music that has something to say, stripped-back ballads, or just sheer, impressive vocal ability, I recommend giving this a listen.

Standout Tracks: “Run to You,” “Heavenly,” “Getaway Car,” “sentimental Memories”

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